Statement issued on dangers of medical marijuana dispensaries

Law enforcement representatives from throughout the county have taken a stance, and for the record, they are against House Bill 3460.

Signed by Gov. John Kitzhaber in August 2013, the bill establishes a medical marijuana facility registry, allowing the Oregon Health Authority to license and regulate dispensaries. Called “pot shops” in largely oppositional lingo, these facilities must be located either on agricultural land or in a commercial, industrial, or mixed-use zone. Dispensaries and growing sites must be separate facilities, and must be at least 1,000 feet from schools and competing medical marijuana retailers.

But the Law Enforcement Council of Washington County expressed concern that greater supply and access, even regulated, would harm the community and present “significant potential to increase marijuana use among our youth, place a higher burden on emergency room care, drug treatment and other health care systems, increase marijuana-related exposure cases, and increase illegal interstate drug trafficking.”

The council stated that impairment from marijuana use doubled the risk of traffic fatalities and was a major factor in high school dropout rates.

The council warned the presence of dispensaries would increase criminal activity, loitering, noise level, litter and traffic, and would aversely impact nearby businesses.

The position statement stops short of outlining any enforcement measures at odds with HB 3460, but emphasizes that the possession, distribution and manufacture of marijuana are in violation of federal law, despite being allowed on the state level through the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

Instead, the statement reads as a public record of opposition, and underscores what has become an ongoing discussion on the state and local level: Will city municipalities be forced to comply to state law, if it means breaking federal law — in this case, the Controlled Substances Act?

It is a question which has inspired a variety of responses from Oregon city councils wishing to discourage medical marijuana retailers within their jurisdictions. Medford effectively banned such facilities outright by refusing to issue licenses to any business found to be in violation of federal law.

In a nonbinding legal opinion issued Nov. 5, attorneys for the Legislature found that “while a municipality may not be required to violate federal law to comply with a conflicting state law, a municipality may not act contrary to state law merely because the municipality believes that the action will better carry out the purposes and objectives of federal law.”

The complex legal analysis, requested by HB 3460 cosponsor, Rep. Peter Buckley (D - Ashland), classifies medical marijuana plants as “nursery stock,” subject to laws that safeguard agricultural production. Attorneys also cited the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says the federal government cannot require state and local bodies to enforce federal laws.

The Law Enforcement Council of Washington County includes police chiefs from Beaverton, Cornelius, Forest Grove, Hillsboro, King City, North Plains, Sherwood, Tigard and Tualatin; Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett and Washington County District Attorney Robert Hermann.

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